ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s more fallout Wednesday over the forgotten families CBS2 has been following for nearly a year.
Elizabeth may become the second city to join Newark’s federal lawsuit against New York City over the controversial Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) program.
“The only way to stop this is to go to court,” Mayor Chris Bollwage told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Wednesday.
Since January, CBS2 has uncovered New York City paying landlords in New Jersey a year’s rent up front to house homeless families. We found family after family was pressured to leave New York, ending up in units with no heat or water and infested with rodents.
“There were 35 units in Elizabeth, and then what’s called the Elizabeth Port area, there are 13 units there, and there are some in Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Union and elsewhere,” Bollwage said. “If they’re not going to tell us who’s here, we’re going to have to deal with it at the end of the year’s lease.”
The lawsuit filed Monday asks a judge to immediately stop the program in New Jersey’s largest city, and would force New York City to disclose where it has place 1,200 families now living there.
WATCH: How Can New York’s SOTA Program For Homeless Families Be Fixed?:
Back in February, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said he learned of SOTA through CBS2’s reporting.
“Mayor de Blasio, this is Mayor Baraka. You know me. We’re great friends, and I think that the SOTA program has some serious deficiencies in it,” Baraka said at the time.
Ten months later, Newark said New York City still won’t disclose details. The lawsuit even cites the case of Shakira Jones, who CBS2 profiled.
The lawsuit says “only after CBS2 aired the documentary ‘Forgotten Families,’ did a DHS representative reach out.”
“What New York City is doing, giving landlords a year’s rent up front without inspecting, giving no opportunity for the SOTA recipient to have any remedy is a nuisance, a public nuisance,” said Gary Lipschutz, assistant corporation counsel of Newark.
The lawsuit would also make New York create a fund to support exported families currently in Newark.
Baraka and de Blasio are now planning a meeting, but in the meantime not only could Elizabeth join the lawsuit, Rozner has learned there are several towns in Union County in talks as well.
The lawsuit comes one week after Newark passed an ordinance making it illegal for landlords to accept a one year voucher as is done in the SOTA program.